The Challenging Task That Eddie Van Halen Gave During Job Interviews, Ex-Guitar Tech Recalls
Legendary guitar tech Tom Weber gave an interview to The Jeremy White Podcast and Rock Talk with Mitch Lafon, during which he recalled the time Eddie Van Halen gave him a challenging task during his job interview.
It is no doubt that Eddie Van Halen is among the greatest guitar players of all time due to his distinctive guitar-playing techniques. So, being his guitar technician was probably challenging. Tom Weber, who worked as Eddie’s guitar tech from 2007 until the guitarist’s death in 2020, recalled his first job interview during a conversation with Mitch Lafon.
In the interview, Weber stated that Eddie’s former tech Matt Bruck took him over to 5150 Studios and told him to set a guitar the way he thinks Eddie would like it without giving him any information. So, it was quite a tough task for him. Following that, Weber recalled the first time he met Eddie and noticed he had a strong grip when they shook hands. So, he set the guitar accordingly and handed the guitar back to Matt Bruck.
According to Weber, Bruck told him Weber is the closest guy so far. So, he gave him another guitar to set to see if he got it right just because he was lucky. After that, Weber met Eddie in person, and Eddie played the guitar. The guitar icon told Weber it was perfect and asked him where has he been all his life. After that moment, Weber jokingly said he was waiting on the other end of the phone for Eddie to call him.
During the interview, Tom Weber told Mitch Lafon the following:
“Matt Bruck takes a guitar out of a gig bag and hands it to me, and he said, ‘You’re to set this up the way you think Ed would like it, and I’m to give you absolutely no information to go by.’ And I’m thinking ‘Okay. If this was easy, I wouldn’t be here.’ And I know that they’re on at least their third guy in production rehearsal. So, things aren’t going well at this point. So, I have to think how far outside the box do I have to make this for it to work for Eddie.
I remember Ed and I met for the first time in 1987, when I was the house audio engineer at Starwood Amphitheater in Nashville. I remember, you know, shaking hands with him in 1993. He had a really strong grip. You know, you press the string on the fingerboard, it meets the fret, you get the note. If you press really hard, the string meets the fingerboard, and the note that you just had is really sharp.
So I figure, Ed’s got a hell of a left hand. I’m going to have to set the intonation flat enough so that when he grabs the neck the notes are right. Well, when you strike a note on a guitar to tune it, the note starts out going sharp, and then it settles into the pitch. Ed Van Halen’s not going to stay in one place long enough for a note to settle into a pitch. So as you pick the string, I figure that’s got to be the note.”
He then continued:
“The high D# [open string] is literally 14 cents flat, which means that if I played one of Ed’s guitars the way that I play my own guitars, I’d sound like a blithering idiot because I’d be so out of tune it was ridiculous. But I thought, ‘Okay, this is as far off-center as I can make it, and if it’s wrong, I’ve had a chance at working with arguably the greatest guitar player of our time.’
So I get it the way I want it. I walk up to Matt, and I hand it back to him. And he says, ‘You’re done?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he looked at me and said, ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Yeah, I’m sure.’ He said, ‘I’ll take it up to the house, Ed will play it. We’ll see what happens.’
A few minutes go by, and Matt walks back in the door with the guitar over his shoulder. And he says, ‘Dude, I’ve been with Ed for 17 years, and he said you’re the closest guy so far.’ He said, ‘Ed has told me nobody in the world, not even me, can tune a guitar for him.’
He set the guitar aside, handed me another one, and said, ‘Ed wants you to take this one back to your hotel, wave the magic wand over, I’ll pick you back up tomorrow at four o’clock. He wants to know if you’re good or if you’re lucky.’“
Weber then recalled what happened the next day:
“I came back at four o’clock the next day, and Ed came in. We hadn’t seen one another since 1987, or actually, ’93 was the last time that I’d seen him. He walks in the door, and he goes ‘I know you.’ And I said ‘Yes sir, you do.’ and he says ‘I don’t remember why I know you, but I know that I know you.’
As we reached the point where he looked over his shoulder and saw the guitar sitting on the bench, he said, ‘Is that the one that you worked on?’ and I said, ‘Yes, it is.’ And he went over and picked it up, and he put the neck up to his ear and played a chord. He said, ‘It’s perfect, where have you been all my life?’ I said, ‘On the other end of the phone, waiting for you to f*cking call me.'”
You can watch the interview below.